Join our mailing list

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted

A YouTube Video Premiere worship service led by Setri Nyomi based on Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Blessed are Those Who Are Persecuted

Song: “The Corinthian Song”
Text and Music: Varn Michael McKay © 2007 Schaff Music Publishing
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Eric Lige, vocalist (San Diego, CA); Megan Nguyen, keyboard (San Diego, CA); Isaí Romero (Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela); Chris Vigos, drums (Athens, Greece) 

Call to Worship and God’s Greeting
Matthew 11 and Jude 1-2
Led by Eric Lige 

Song: “We Will Make No Peace with Oppression”
Text and Music: The Porter’s Gate © 2020 The Porter’s Gate, admin. Integrity Music
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by September Penn and Mariela Arrendondo 

Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Pardon
Led by September Penn

Song: “God Is Good”
Text and Music: Jonathan Caleb McReynolds © 2018 JMCReynolds, Essential Music Publishing
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by Rachel Mathew, Julia Carbajal, Eric Lige, vocals; Vahagn Stepanyan, piano 

Prayer for Illumination, Scripture Passage, Sermon, and Prayer of Application
Matthew 5:10-12
Led by Setri Nyomi and Akpene Nyomi

Song: “O Lord, May Your Kingdom Come”
Text and Music: Isaiah 11:6-9, Eric Sarwar; tune based on the Sindhra Raga, arr. Greg Scheer © 2014 Eric Sarwar
Used by permission
Led by Eric Sarwar and Calvin Symposium on Worship musicians 2019 

Led by John Chen

Song: “Trenches”
Text and Music: Chuck Butler, Ethan Hulse, Tauren Wells © Be Essential Songs, Crucial Music Entertainment, EGH Music Publishing, Jord A Lil Music, admin. by Essential Music Publishing
Used by permission. CCLI #400063.
Led by the Fuller Seminary Chapel Team 

Led by Setri Nyomi in Ewe (Ghanaian language)

Sermon by Setri Nyomi

Let us pray. Lord God Almighty, we thank you for your presence with us in this time of worship. We commit ourselves to you that you will speak to us this day. May the preacher simply be your vessel through whom we hear this message for us this day. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.   

Mrs. Akpene Nyomi will read our scripture passage.   

Akpene Nyomi Our scripture passage is Matthew 5:10–12. Let us listen for the Word of God.   

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 

This is the way of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.  

Rev. Nyomi You are blessed. I am blessed. They are blessed. These are words that we use as Christians constantly. Usually when we use these words, we mean something amazingly wonderful has happened to the person we see as blessed: a recipient of the favor of God. Blessings make us happy. Many people feel blessed when they have substantial material wealth. Or we count those blessed whose marriage and family life seem free from any challenges and they are in good health. Ordinarily, we do not apply the word “blessed” to people who are going through tough times.  

Let us hear the words of Jesus again as were read for us: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” Wait a minute. Blessed? How can we apply “blessed” to people who are suffering because of their faith? Persecution is not a pleasant experience. In starting what we call the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, our Lord Jesus seems to be pointing to a different standard of measuring being blessed. The meaning and standards of being blessed that many human societies assume are all contradicted by the values that our Lord Jesus Christ pointed out in each of these blessings mentioned in this part of the Sermon on the Mount.

What constitutes blessings, according to the Lord Jesus, are different from the values of the world. This tenth verse of Matthew 5 beckons us to respond to two questions. One: what about being persecuted for the sake of righteousness constitutes a blessing? Two: how do we appropriate the blessing of being persecuted for the sake of righteousness today? The Hebrew word that is translated as “righteousness” in the Bible is tzedek. The Greek word is dikaiosune. Both of these words point to righteousness or justice having to do with right relationships: right relationship with God, right relationships with human beings, and right relationships with creation. Anything else is unrighteous or unjust. Right relationship with God is not possible if we're relying on our own ability with our human, sinful, broken natures, we are unable to meet God's standards. Right relationship with God is possible only because our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated God's love to the full by coming on the cross and dying for us. By responding to this wonderful love and having him come into our lives as our Lord and Savior, we are in right relationship with God. 

This puts us in a great place to be in right relationships with other human beings and with God's creation. The world is filled with people who are in wrong relationships. In human self-centeredness, prejudice, oppression and all forms of injustice characterize relationships on the basis of race, sex, economic status, and others. So it is easy to just follow the world's standards of injustice. Having right relationship with God means exercising that radical love for other human beings and for God's creation that contradicts the world's tendencies toward injustice. Of course, the world is not going to take this lying down. So there is going to be persecution. The forces of evil and injustice will devise means of persecuting those who are standing for justice and right relationships. In that joy of knowing our actions of commitment to right relationships with God and with one another as human beings is what is attracting persecution can be likened to that of the apostles' experiences as recorded in Acts 5, when after being flogged for preaching the gospel so that people would come into right relationship with God, they left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

When out of the same love we commit ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore are proclaiming his Word, and we decry the evil of injustice in the world, and as a result we are lambasted or persecuted for it, we are in good company. The countercultural values extolled in the Beatitudes call us to be ready for this kind of persecution. This one comes with the word "when," not the word "if." In other words, the Lord was saying persecution will come because of righteousness. How do we appropriate this blessing of being persecuted for the sake of righteousness today?  

This is not an invitation to build our castles in the sky, feeling that, if we can ignore the world's realities and indicate that all will be well in the life hereafter, we do not need to make a difference in the world we live in today. Being blessed is a kind of joyful confidence that defies what the world dishes out to believers. It takes faith to laugh in the face of challenges placed in our way because of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this kind of defiance that the Lord is pointing to in this passage. Our rejoicing and being glad during times of persecution is not simply a naïve spiritual thing to do in order to score points in heaven. The rejoicing and being glad constitute a defiance of the forces of evil in the world. The prophets of old and the apostles went through this kind of defiance also. Done faithfully, it draws people to Christ and to living in right relationships with God and with others. Once we are open to this, the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to go through such persecution and gives us the strength to be faithful in this radical right relationship with God. This is what gives us that inner defiant joy in spite of the persecution of the world. It is a beatitude that brings that inner joy that the world cannot offer. That is true blessing. 

This beatitude, together with the first beatitude, comes with a reward, for this is the kingdom of heaven. That kingdom begins with relationship with God while we live in this world, but is not limited to this life alone. When we commit ourselves to living this radical life, we enjoy a close walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Participating in the kingdom of heaven now in this world and in its full expression in eternity. May this be our portion. Amen.  

Let us pray. Thank you, dear God, for your Word. Thank you for the privilege of having right relationships with you. We pray for grace to be in right relationships with one another and to be your faithful instruments in standing for justice and righteousness. When this brings persecution, we pray for your empowerment to stand for you and not waver and to count ourselves blessed. We thank you that even in this, you are always present with us. Our prayers are in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.